Attorney General Releases Statement on Charging Library for Police Presence at Drag Queen Stories Event

October 8, 2019

Kathryn M. Rowe, Assistant Attorney form the Office of the Attorney General of Maryland sent the following letter to Brian M. Crosby.

Dear Delegate Crosby:
You have asked for advice concerning a Drag Queen Stories event at the Lexington Park Library in St. Mary’s County (“the library”). Specifically, you have asked about the First Amendment implications of certain actions by the Board of County Commissioners (“the Board”) with respect to this event. It is my view that certain actions by the Board could be found to violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

As I understand the situation, the library in question makes meeting rooms available to organizations for public events. Under library policy the meeting rooms are available on a first­come, first-served basis regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of the group or its members. Drag Queen Stories took place at the library under this policy and led to negative commentary from some citizens and Board members. It also attracted protesters, one of whom was arrested. It is also my understanding that the Sheriff, reacting to the high level of opposition to the event, sent 16 deputies to provide additional security. At their July 16, 2019 meeting, the Board voted to take funds from the library budget to cover the Sheriffs extra expenses. It is my understanding that the Sheriff did not request these funds and that the library did not request the extra law enforcement coverage. At the same meeting, at least one Commissioner suggested to representatives of the library that they should avoid having such controversial events and that their funding may be affected if they continued to have controversial events.

The pressure to avoid controversial events at the library did not come from the Board as a whole and was not voted on by the Board, and thus cannot be said to be an official action. If, however, the library were to refuse controversial events in order to avoid having their budget reduced, that action would most likely violate the First Amendment. As a public institution, the library is subject to the restrictions of the First Amendment. Pfeifer v. City of West Allis, 91 F. Supp. 2d 1253, 1266 (E.D. Wis. 2000). The test for determining whether content-based regulation of speech in a public building violates the First Amendment depends upon the type of forum in question. Perry Education Association v. Perry Local Educators’ Association, 460 U.S. 3 7 ( 1983 ). The Supreme Court has identified three distinct types of fora for the purposes of the First Amendment, which include the: (1) traditional public forum; (2) the non-public forum; and (3) the imited (designated) public forum.” ACLU Student Chapter v. Mote, 321 F.Supp.2d 670, 678 (D. Md. 2004).

Libraries are generally considered designated, or limited, public forums.1 Kreimer v. Bureau of Police for Town of Morris, 958 F.2d 1242, 1259 (3d Cir. 1992) (“library constitutes a limited public forum, a type of designated public fora”); Jaffe v. Baltimore County Bd of Library Trustees, 2009 WL 7083368 (D. Md. March 25, 2009) (“A library constitutes a limited public forum.”); Pfeifer, 91 F. Supp. 2d at 1266 (E.D. Wis. 2000) (library “opened its doors wide enough” to have created a designated public forum); Elizabeth Henslee, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Public Forum: Why a Public Forum Analysis Applied to the Library Should Protect Internet Services and Delivery Services, 43 Capital University Law Review 777, 778 n. 9 (2015) (and cases cited therein).

A designated public forum consists of public property opened up for the use of the public for expressive activity. Pfeifer, 91 F. Supp. at 1259. Unlike a traditional public forum, a designation of a public forum may be revoked. Id. In addition, a designated public forum can be limited to a specific class of people or for the discussion of specific subject matter. Kreimer, 958 F.2d at 1259. These limitations may not, however, be based on viewpoint. United States Postal Service v. Council of Greenburgh Civic Assns., 453 U. S. 114, 131 (1981). Nor is the avoidance of controversy a valid ground for limiting speech in a limited public forum. Pfeifer v. City of West Allis, 91 F. Supp. 2d 1253, 1267 (E.D. Wis. 2000); Cornelius v. NAACP Legal Defense Fund, 473 U.S. 788, 811 (1985). Instead, a limited public forum must “permit the public to exercise rights that are consistent with the nature of the Library and consistent with the government’s intent in designating the Library as a public forum.” Jaffe v. Baltimore County Bd. of Library Trustees, 2009 WL 7083368 (D. Md. March 25, 2009), citing Kreimer v. Bureau of Police for Town of Morris, 958 F.2d 1242, 1262 (3d Cir. 1992). Limits on those rights can be upheld only if they are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and … leave open ample alternative channels for communication of information.” Jaffe v. Baltimore County Bd. of Library Trustees, 2009 WL 7083368 (D. Md. March 25, 2009).

In short, it is clear that the library cannot constitutionally deny meeting space to organizations solely because the organization or the subject matter of the meeting is controversial.

Charging the library for the police presence they did not request, and which was deemed necessary only because of the anticipated reaction of others, is also constitutionally problematic. In Forsyth County v Nationalist Movement, 505 U.S. 123 (1992), the Supreme Court held that any system of fees for public events such as parades be set based on “narrowly drawn, reasonable and definite standards,” id. at 132-133, and that it may not be based on the content or anticipated public reaction to the content of the proposed speech, id. at 134-135 (“Speech cannot be financially burdened, any more than it can be punished or banned, simply because it might offend a hostile mob.”).

I have not found security cost issues or cases involving libraries, but they are common with respect to colleges and universities. The Office of the Attorney General has advised that requiring an organization to pay more for the use of public space on a college campus based on the perception of campus police that certain speech was likely to engender hostile reactions would violate the First Amendment. 78 Opinions of the Attorney General 75, 80 (1993), see also Sonnier v. Crain, 613 F.3d 436, 447-448 (5th Cir. 2010) (finding security fee at university unconstitutional); College Republicans of University of Washington v. Cauce, 2018 WL 804497 (W.D. Wash. February 9, 2018) ( unreported) (granting temporary restraining order for student group assessed fee of $17,000 for a proposed speaker. (The University ultimately settled the case, agreeing to change the policy and pay $122,500 in attorneys’ fees).

In light of these cases, it is my view that charging the library for security added based on the Sheriffs conclusion about the likelihood of opposition raises serious constitutional questions.

Kathryn M. Rowe
Assistant Attorney General

49 Responses to Attorney General Releases Statement on Charging Library for Police Presence at Drag Queen Stories Event

  1. Baud9600 on October 8, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Wouldn’t “I don’t know” been shorter?

    • Anonymous on October 10, 2019 at 5:27 am

      I’m curious as to the need for Crosby or the AG’ office to comment on this story at all. It’s over and done with.

  2. Anonymous on October 8, 2019 at 5:04 pm

    THIS TOTAL GARBAGE OF A DRAG STORY AT A PUBLIC LIBRARY IS NONSENSE AND SHOULD HAVE NEVER TAKEN PLACE.TYPICAL DEMOCRAT NON SENSE.VOTE REPUBLICAN PEOPLE.

  3. Wiggy on October 8, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    “It is MY view” enough said.

  4. Anonymous on October 8, 2019 at 5:27 pm

    This will for sure open other groups to use the library.

    • Jimmy V. on October 9, 2019 at 3:13 pm

      Yep, will they let neo-nazis do a Neo-nazi Story Time Hour? The Liberal Left is UNHINGED!

  5. rondeer on October 8, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    why don’t the queens have their meetings at the dirty book store? it’s near by and reading material already there.

    • SMC History on October 9, 2019 at 6:27 am

      You obviously have never been to the ‘Book Store’ which by the way, is no longer called the ‘Book Store’. And it never really had ‘reading’ material lol.

    • Anonymous on October 9, 2019 at 7:59 am

      Youve just shown youre ignorance in what story time is all about – its not about porn, dirty books. instead before opening your mouth up and making ridiculous statements, research what is going on.

      you must be a a repUGNANcan

      • Jimmy V. on October 9, 2019 at 3:14 pm

        What does go on there, Anonymous tool? Yep, Men dressed as women for lurid purposes. WE WILL PROTEST, PAL!

      • Azazel on October 10, 2019 at 8:15 pm

        2 drag queen story tellers in Houston were found out to be convicted child mollesters you ignorant dumocrap a-hole.
        Take your own advice and research what is going on before your big liberal mouth squawks you ignorant bag of pus.

  6. Publius on October 8, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Would that these standards apply to all speech.

  7. Lou Man on October 8, 2019 at 8:09 pm

    WHO CARES

    • Exactly - Who Cares? on October 9, 2019 at 6:38 am

      All remaining people holding on to true American moral values, while still sharing an interest in their community’s survival.

      Those who are raising children or that love their family members: who will not stand idly by while the morality and principles that created our free and prosperous nation are slowly eroded away by new wave freaks, queers, and alien gendered minorities.

      Those corrupt weirdos wrapping themselves in our flag while pushing their disgusting sinful behavior as merely a “lifestyle” – in order to gain rights, entitlements, and media support through their camouflaged claims for constitutional allowances.

      Imagine the bible-believing founders and framers of this great country seeing these freak shows being promoted at public places. They would be rounded up and jailed – or far worst – adequately punished and disbanded – As they deserve.

      But the liberal democrat socialist have poisoned the minds of our politicians, and even worse – OUR YOUTH – through their alteration, perversion, and installation of doctored curriculum, activist brainwashing, and media propaganda. Our universities, schools, and airwaves are clogged with this false propaganda. History itself is being re-written with lies and slanted with exaggerated claims to promote divisions, hatred, and ridiculous diversions, which include the latest false doctrine of climate change.

      It is PAST TIME for a revival of free thinking, common sense, and decency in this country.
      So you have two choices:

      Sit in your easy chairs playing video games and watching TV while everything goes to hell around you.

      Or stand with US – using a clear voice, uniting behind the new republicans backing THIS president to make America great. He is NOT perfect – but he is exposing the corruption and leading the changes WE NEED in this government – exposing the pack of thieves now in political office.

      If you DO join in the cause, expect censorship from ALL MEDIA and persecution.

      But at least you can feel good inside yourself KNOWING that you stand for what is truly RIGHT.

      • No H8 on October 9, 2019 at 2:54 pm

        Um,as married gay parents, we adopted our kids because the heterosexuals that created them could not provide or take care of them. We also go to church every Sunday. Our children’s friends do not see us as new wave freaks or queer, or an alien gendered minority. They see us as parents. The best part? We do not use our faith or belief in God to promote hate and bigotry. We believe in Jesus, we put him first and try to live as He wants us to, and we certainly do not use our religion to push a false political agenda. Religion has no place in politics. Our family knows what we stand for. We stand for peace and unity, and the freedom to live without oppression.

        • Harry Callahan on October 9, 2019 at 7:20 pm

          You are such the racist! We live in a multi diverse society. homophobia is the real disorder

      • Fred Barry on October 9, 2019 at 3:55 pm

        You have too much time on your hands..

        “new wave freaks, queers, and alien gendered minorities.”

        I feel sorry for anyone who knows you. I hope you don’t have kids.

        • Mike on October 10, 2019 at 10:02 am

          I usually try and defend the people down here because most of them are just “good old boys” who don’t know any better. But, there really is a bunch of white trash in this area. It’s like people think it’s cool to be a dumb hick.

      • Wow on October 15, 2019 at 3:35 pm

        I bet you’re fun at parties!

    • Jimmy V. on October 9, 2019 at 3:16 pm

      Parents care, Single Incel.

  8. son on October 8, 2019 at 10:08 pm

    Blah blah blah, so the librarys a public place where anyone can say or do anything, we don’t want to take sides and offend anyone, but we will charge the library for the security provided to calm everybody’s nerves. Here’s an idea charge the “drags” who organized the event for the security, tell the library and other govt facilitys to treat these events equal to an event that would preach the ideas of Christianity and ban them on any govt property. Finally tell the library and other govt facilitys since their “public” places they must record and post the who, what, where, when, why, and how to the “public” before any one events takes place and if they lie on the application, need security from police, or any other govt Services they get the bill.
    The whole purpose of this “drag reading” was to stir public outrage and make news headlines all so these “drags” can get sympathy along with special rights and privileges.

  9. nemo on October 8, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    Where is SMASH in all this? They are just provocateurs who are using the library to schedule events they know will get folks’ knickers in a twist and then they crawl back into the woodwork like cockroaches avoiding the light. If security is needed–and I don’t argue that it should be paid for–then the SMASH folks should pony up. Anyone using the fairground has to provide proof of insurance which they’ve bought and they have to pay for their own security. Should be the same for any group wishing to use the library which might be sponsoring an event which could be controversial.

  10. Ted Nugent on October 9, 2019 at 5:39 am

    Everyone that voted for Frosh owes us an apology.

  11. M. Castro on October 9, 2019 at 6:33 am

    It is my opinion that the term public references the majority of people paying the taxes that provide for the funding of said library. Without that majority of public tax payers, there would be no library. Additionally exploiting the loop hole that that the tax payer provided library where as in is supported by a majority of citizens that oppose this line of educating is sinister and abhorrent! When a small group gets to dictate what will be publicly expressed within a larger opposition group, considering the larger group contributes to the majority of the funding for said “public” library, it begs to question the integrity of those within our states representative positions. Representatives are elected to represent the all of their constituents with an emphasis on issues relating towards the majority of those constituents. This is clearly a blatant disregard by our AG that can and will only be resolved during our next election cycle. It has become frequent that political agendas have taken spotlight over the values and concerns of the community.

  12. Fred Barry on October 9, 2019 at 7:55 am

    We got a lot of melting Republican SNOWFLAKES on here!!!

    • Azazel on October 9, 2019 at 7:08 pm

      No stupid Fred, you and Victoria just don’t know you’re trash, because you’re trash.

    • Jimmy V. on October 11, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      You WILL NEVER indoctrinate my kids, Perv.

  13. waytago on October 9, 2019 at 8:06 am

    @$$hole$ & their opinions lead to ignorance.. which causes violence & there are INNOCENT CHILDREN at the library.

    they chose a public place for a reason & they got exactly what they wanted. ATTENTION.

    drag queens – 1
    society – 0

  14. Anonymous on October 9, 2019 at 8:22 am

    I suggest they have their next gathering at the commissioner’s meeting in Leonardtown.
    That’s a free and open event for the public. I would think the commissioners would welcome ALL parties.

    • Anon on October 11, 2019 at 11:08 am

      Fabulous idea! That would work well.

  15. Anonymous on October 9, 2019 at 8:33 am

    All tax payers should vote on this.

  16. Terry Jefferson on October 9, 2019 at 9:49 am

    If you do not like something – it is your right not to partake – don’t allow your negative views affect others rights. We are ALL entitled to do what we want – your views should not have any affects.

    • Anonymous on October 9, 2019 at 11:32 am

      WRONG, common sense,morals,values and integrity says you dont have a drag show at the library around children.WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?WE ARE DONE HAVING YOUR UNHEALTHY PERVERTED VIEWS PUSHED ON US AND WILL NOT ACCEPT IT ANYMORE.GO CRAWL BACK UNDER YOUR ROCK NOW.

      • Terry Jefferson on October 10, 2019 at 8:44 am

        Because YOU do not want it – does not mean someone else doesn’t either! If you don’t want to partake – then DON’T! But, DO NOT throw your shade to the ones who do want to partake! It is THEIR RIGHT – NOT YOURS! You are an idiot!

        • Azazel on October 13, 2019 at 8:43 pm

          No, anyone who would go to or take children to an event prone to have convicted pedophiles participating in (as the drag queen story hour in Houston did) is an F-ing idiot trash bucket.

  17. Dosmom on October 9, 2019 at 11:54 am

    You can’t have it both ways. The library is either a PUBLIC SPACE funded by taxpayers, or a private entity that pays their own way! You, Ms. Rowe, speak from your butt like MOST politicians. I highly DOUBT the library loans space to all regardless of affiliation or belief.

  18. Anonymous on October 9, 2019 at 12:54 pm

    Why not have all groups post a bond for security of their events? And/or charge a security fee to everyone who rents the rooms.

    If the event draws in law enforcement to protect the citizens, call the bond and reimburse the Sheriff. Or pay out of the security fund balance.

    Then the taxpayers aren’t on the hook for extra law enforcement costs, and neither is the Library.

  19. Jimmy V. on October 9, 2019 at 3:11 pm

    This is wrong having these events in a public building! Quit indoctrinating Children with Adult perversions. It is disgusting!!

  20. myhsplace on October 9, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    so any controversial group is going to be allowed to rent library room right, even if they are like intolerant white racist ones??
    doubtful, only the approved ones will be allowed, racist or not. the rest they disagree with will simply be labeled promoting hate as an excuse why their ‘rights’ aren’t allowed to rent room and soon after, if not already, they will deny any of you conservative minded groups that support the president..
    either-way, no matter what their beliefs/etc, the groups themselves should be paying for extra security, tax payers $$ shouldn’t be used period!!

    • Hypocrite on October 9, 2019 at 7:14 pm

      You do realize there are intolerant black racist as well, correct?

      • Anonymous on October 10, 2019 at 5:29 am

        Like the BLM effort?

  21. Harry Callahan on October 9, 2019 at 7:21 pm

    homophobia is the real disorder

    • Jimmy V. on October 10, 2019 at 10:01 am

      No, indoctrination in perversion on young children is the real disorder.

  22. Steve on October 10, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    What about the grown men who dress as women and play softball in the county I believe they are called the “Clements Cuties” I don’t see people complaining or causing a big uproar and I’m sure many kids watch/attend the game. Where is the outrage/protest?

    • Anonymous on October 11, 2019 at 1:47 pm

      Or better yet what about the Hogettes. All you flaming Redskin fans watched every weekend and thought they were great. Well every time they went to a home game they wore dresses. Not a word about them. Were they prevents or teaching homophobic ways. Don’t think so. Heck the Redskins even used them in their marketing.

      Clearly this is not a violation of any Constitutional Amendment so why do we care. You should be more worried about the molestation of children by Catholic Priests than this. Which the church has paid millions of dollars to quell. There is no indication that these folks in drag did any molestation to the children that were taken there by their parents. Key word here is they were taken by their parents. So if you don’t agree with taking your kids to an event like this than don’t. Stop bitching about people who do.

      Was there a crime committed yes. Ashley Morgan broke the law. Not a one of the people in drag were arrested, detained or caused a problem. Makes you wonder.

      The Sheriff’s department needs to get restitution from Ashley Morgan for the added security for the event. Maybe the court should have put that in his sentencing.

      • Azazel on October 15, 2019 at 7:26 pm

        They’re all suspect.

      • Synonymous on October 17, 2019 at 7:27 pm

        So, Soros and the Democrat party should pay for all the security and damage caused by BLM and antifa, two paid fascist mobs.

  23. Anonymous on October 10, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    I the fact that the Empty-prise doesn’t moderate the comments on this website

  24. Chief Gray Owl on October 17, 2019 at 7:55 pm

    When I was young boy, library for reading not talking,you were supposed to be quiet. World be better if activist shut the hell up. Shut mouth and open eyes. Go to library to read and be quiet.